Nearly all addresses to the
The core argument in Trump's address was that the nation-state is the indispensable unit of the world order. "We reject the ideology of globalism and accept the doctrine of patriotism," the president declared.
"Each of us here today," he stated, "is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth. That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control and domination."
At times Trump's depiction of globalism was a bit of a strawman. Cooperation with and participation in international institutions --
But the Trump administration has a good case that some of these institutions are in dire need of reform. Trump was right to reaffirm the administration's decision to pull out of the
At the same time, much of what the president had to say was undoubtedly music to the ears of many of those nations.
Nationalism, which Trump's speechwriters called "the doctrine of patriotism," is a lot like individualism. Everyone -- liberals and conservatives alike -- embraces individualism in the abstract because it implies the notion that people are responsible for their own actions and should be free from unjust coercion. But liberals and conservatives typically have very different ideas about what individualism means in practice. One need only look at debates over the Obamacare mandate, free speech, wedding cake bakers, etc., to understand that.
Similarly, everyone agrees in the abstract that nation-states should be "free" to do what is in their own interest and what is valued by their own cultures. But at times we have fierce disagreements about how that theory is put into practice. Just as
Every culture is indeed unique, and every custom is rooted in tradition and history. But that does not mean all customs (or policies) are equally worthy of respect or deference. Many nations have traditions of slavery, cruelty to women and unchecked authoritarianism. No one should forgive such things in the name of celebrating cultural diversity. That doesn't mean it's the obligation of
Nor, as the leader of the free world, should we pretend that just because every nation-state is sovereign as a matter of international law that the people of every unfree nation chose to live under despots and dictatorships.
Trump was right when he said, "Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived, democracy has ever endured, or peace has ever prospered." But we should not confuse necessity and sufficiency. Sovereign and independent nations have also been among the leading vehicles of barbarism and tyranny. And that's why countries such as